Chapter 3: Rec Yard Blues

I was surrounded. It happened before I could realize it. 

I had been laying on the warm concrete Rec yard floor, looking up at Orion. I used my hands as blinders to filter out the ambient light. At that moment I felt like I was actually just on a ship sailing out in the ocean. It made the time easier to think about, and was a thought that I often returned to.

I was on a voyage.

I was even wearing white, like a sailor.

I got up, dusted myself off and decided that I was thirsty. And the water fountain was unattended. I quickly walked over to it and took a drink. Rust and cleaning products. Tasty.


The yell was thunderous and directly from behind me. I turned and there was a group of black inmates surrounding me in a semicircle. I was pinned in the corner.

I waved.

The crowd parted and the leader stepped through. I saw Sweet in the group, he looked worried, the rest of them looked pissed. I stood there in silence, once again, just waiting for the hammer to drop.

“HEY WOOD!” he thundered, “I HEAR YOU CAN REC!”

Confused, I replied “Yeah, this REC.”

“NO, MAN I HEAR YOU CAN WRECK!” (then he spelled it -loudly)

Sweet whispered to me “He means Rap, dude.”

“Yeah, I have been known to bust a few flows” I told him

“THEN WRECK!” he yelled, then stepped back.

I hate being stared at. I am honest enough to admit that I was scared shitless. The only thing I could think of were a few Insane Clown Posse songs. So I wrecked it. They began cheering and jumping. More of the inmates came to see the commotion. The guards took notice, began entering the REC yard with gas guns.

The Capitan was amazed that in the middle of the yelling screaming mass was this little white kid from the sticks, rapping.

My first day I earned the respect of all of the black inmates in my dorm and most of the unit. They referred to me as “AK” because of my charges.


We sat across the table and commenced to battle. I have always been a strong chess player, but I was totally out of my element with Sweet. Game after game he utterly trounced me. Frankie came to the table and I fared better. Soon the other woods came up and introduced themselves.

Chess in jail is different than on the outside. Outside, there is always something to do that is more pressing. A game has to be cut short, or you have to play more aggressively to make it quicker. In jail, all one has is time to contemplate the next move. Games have gone on for weeks.

Sweet had this annoying habit of humming hymns to himself as he played. I knew he was doing it to be distracting. Other chess players would have similar ticks. I enjoyed using funny voices and from time to time have resorted to repeatedly tapping my pencil on the metal table to throw off an opponent. It was always a sight to see two chess players trying to distract each other in this manner.

After our (thirtieth, hundredth) last game, I had begun to make some headway. I stopped relying on my queen, instead building a solid defense with my pawns. Sneakily I managed to trap his bishop and the next move it was mine. Sweet missed the trap, by this time the pencil trick must have been wearing him down.

Before he could move, insanity broke out.

Out of nowhere a Hispanic gentleman landed on our chess game.

“Ughhhh” he said in a rasp.

His face was bruised, his nose was bleeding and his jaw was dislocated. He was dragged off into the corner and the beating resumed. I noticed as they had him on the ground that he had Sweet’s bishop imbedded in his back.

It was then that the call over the PA came for Recreation, or REC.

Since our game was abruptly ended, I decided to go out and see some stars.


Although I had gained the respect of the Blacks and a large group of the Hispanic crowd, there were a few who had thought that I was a traitor to my race.

There were six of them sitting and standing around their table. The domino game they were playing was a pretense. They were just shuffling around their dominoes, staring at me. Always with the staring.

One approached me, introduced himself. Rob, 26 from Edna. Meth head by the looks. He had SS lightning bolts tattooed to his neck, and swastikas for eyebrows. He was completely shaved.

“Hey man, what was that you were doing out there?” he asked.

It was the first time I wasn’t addressed as Wood.

“Just a little rap” I said.

“Yeah, you don’t need to get the Niggers all excited.” then he turned and left.

That was it.


I went back to my bunk just in time for lights out, but my first night was far from over.

I laid there, once again contemplating my course of events. I knew that the pipeline was a bad idea, but I couldn’t get it out of his head.

James wanted to blow up a natural gas pipeline.

It had started innocently enough. We were sitting in the boxcar drinking and smoking cigars that he had stolen from his father. He asked me what type of explosive would do damage to a heavy duty structure.

“Shaped charge.” I told him.

I explained to him how a shaped charge directs the force in one direction to maximize the effect. I showed him a sketch. He made one. We tested it on a small propane cylinder. The fireball was massive. The shredded propane bottle whistled over our heads.

He wanted to make more, so we did, placing the gas cylinders in various objects, like boxes, mannequins, and one watermelon.  

Fast forward three weeks, and it was the night before boot camp. We were in the boxcar having my goodbye party, but what we were really waiting for was to be alone. There were three of us involved. Myself, James and Bradley. Bradley was younger by a year, but was eager to learn. After the rest of my friends left, we took the bag containing the shaped charge and got into James’ truck. I laid in the back seat and idly played with a nine millimeter automatic pistol.

“Where are we going?” I asked.

“To get some propane.”

I laid back in my seat and watched the stars go by the window. It felt like hours.

There were explosions in the darkness.

Harsh ripping staccato beats and metallic banging. I opened my eyes to the darkened dorm. The sound echoed throughout the building. There was an open space between the partition and the wall. I crawled over to my belly and peeked through the space. I could see a man’s face pressed on the floor against the wall. They were kicking him in the shoulders and the back of the head.

As quickly as it ripped me out of sleep, it was over.


The outside world stopped existing after a few days. Days stopped existing after a few days. The monotony merged them together.

We played chess. I got better. I was able to stalemate Sweet at least once a day, although I think it was him letting me draw so I did not feel so bad. I became friends with the Wood spokesman, a short redheaded guy named Carl. Carl was short. Not short in height, but short on time. He had two weeks left when I met him. He was a decent chess player, but his claim to fame was his palm farting technique. He would press his hands together and squeeze them, making the offending sound.

He would make beats and I would rap to them, while I played chess with Sweet, kibitzing the whole time. After a few games, Carl asked Sweet if he wouldn’t mind giving us some privacy. Sweet got up, and Carl took his place. I began setting up the pieces. He grabbed the hand I was using to set up his side of the board.

“Michael, I need to talk about some serious shit.”

I looked at him. Carl re explained the hierarchy of the unit, and where the Woods were on the totem pole. He explained that there needed to be a strong spokesman, not only someone who was smart, but who also can deal with the other races.

He said that he was stepping down in three days.

I knew where this was going.

I was unanimously elected Spokesman of the wood pile in my dorm. I demanded a re count. Insisted that since I did not run for anything I couldn’t be elected.

He said that he would have me dropped in the bowling alley if I said no.

I told him I had to think about it.

  1. […] 2: Frankenstein and the Chow LineChapter 3: Rec Yard BluesChapter 4: What Do You Call a White Supremacist?Chapter 5: LockdownChapter 6: […]

  2. […] 2: Frankenstein and the Chow LineChapter 3: Rec Yard BluesChapter 4: What Do You Call a White Supremacist?Chapter 5: LockdownChapter 6: […]

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